Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sunday Walkabout 5-6


                             "Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!"
                                                                             -Gomer Pyle

After a string of weeks that could only be described as draining at best, the past seven days were actually rather mundane. What a nice surprise! And, I am happy to report that we had a week with no breakdowns, major catastrophes or emotional meltdowns. There may have been a point when I thought we would physically melt, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

It was time to put aside any hindrances and get back to the work of growing things. it was time to get going…

But, wait just one minute there.

Take a look at the forecast! Nice weather? Warmer days? 

Nope. Not right now. Surprise! We’re under a freeze warning. And, a red flag warning.

The freeze warning is self-explanatory. It was going to get seriously cold. Young plants cannot handle sub-freezing temperatures. So, all those plants that we set outside to “harden off” needed some sort of protection during the night. They were also seriously root-bound, so they were unable to retain much moisture in their root mass. Which brings us to the red flag warning. While this warning actually applies to the threat of wildfires (more on that later) the combination of low humidity and strong winds had the potential to suck any moisture out of the transplants. Essentially, we ran the risk of freeze-dried plants by morning. Choosing to be safe rather than sorry, we hauled everything back into the greenhouses that had just been vacated the day before.
didn't we just bring these out here?

May frost
fortunately, it didn't get quite as cold as predicted

back in the greenhouse
means any seed starting has to wait

going to the vet

And, planting got postponed...again.

That worked out so that Karma had another chauffeured trip to the vet. So, she’s up-to-date on all her shots until next year. Now, we just need to decide if we should spay her or not. I might be able to convince the Boss that a litter of guardian puppies would be a good idea. Maybe.

But, if Gus could vote it would be a gigantic NO. Karma-the-toddler-puppy is just about to drive him insane.
I don't know if I should feel sorry for him or just laugh at the antics
She loves nothing more than to grab onto his big plumy tail and pull. This was funny when she was a little pup and would fly up in the air when he whirled around to see what had him. Now that she weighs nearly fifty pounds, she just pulls big wads of fur out and chews on them for a while. The yard now looks like something went very wrong for a great number of stuffed animals. There are big tufts of white fluff everywhere. It’s a mess that just gets worse when the grass is mowed. Then we have big tufts of green fur everywhere.
this was Gus' tail

I finally took the scissors to Gus’ tail and removed the mats so that Karma wouldn’t have anything substantial to grab. Unfortunately, now Gus thinks EVERYONE is after his tail and it took the Boss and I at least 5 minutes to chase him down just to apply his Frontline treatment (prevents fleas and ticks)
this should be easy
great, big dog...teeny, tiny bottle
a major chase ensued

It’s no surprise to see birds around here. The county is known to be a haven for bird watchers. There are 65 birding "hotspots" listed by the local bird club. On the other hand, it’s always exciting to see something we’ve never seen before.
blue bird on fence post

goldfinch in dead pine

dove in the garden

On my way to the mailbox, something flew out from under the bridge. Surprise! On closer investigation, it was apparent it was a green heron. Now, while the birding page says these are common, I’ve never seen one. So COOL! The variety of wildlife at the creek is deserving of its own post at some point...

Green Heron
at the creek

Back at the barn, I bent over and reached into the feed-can to scoop some grain for the sheep. I could have sworn something touched my head. Later, the same thing happened. There on the messy shelf above the cans was a small pile of hay I hadn’t noticed the day before. Wait a minute…there is a little round hole right in the center…and staring directly at me from the hole were two little eyes!
easy to miss among the junk on the shelf

Mrs. Wren on her nest

A Carolina Wren had decided to build a nest there in the relative safety of the shelf. At last count there were four little eggs in the little nest. This is not the first time a wren has used this shelf. It’s safe from cats and rats and the messiness proves a camouflage for the new family. We will have to keep an eye on this little project.
several years ago
this wren successfully fledged her offspring in a nearby spot

Not to be outdone, the barnswallows have the barn under constant consideration. They swoop in and fly around and “talk” and swoop out again. In the past, the barnswallows haven’t been too successful brooding chicks in the rafters. Marauding bluejays destroyed at least one year’s nest and chicks. Maybe this will be the year.
barn swallows checking out the barn

this one is voicing his/her opinion

The barn provided yet another surprise when I found "bucky" (the sick lamb) in the feeder...

After weeks of worry, de-worming, antibiotics, pro-biotics, nutritional supplements and actual laying on of hands, I had about given up hope that he would ever improve. We decided to give him a shot of B-vitamins and then let nature take its course. At that point, we had done absolutely everything we could think of to get him healthy once more. He would walk out with the rest of the flock and then just stand there, with his back hunched up and his ears hanging down, looking dejected and sickly. It was disturbing.
this is actually an improvement

But…there he was…in the feeder. EATING! Will wonders never cease?
"Bucky" in the feeder

and so it begins

By this point, the cold weather had finally moved through. The long-delayed brassica planting job was on. The Boss tilled and marked the rows, I dipped and plunked the plants. Then he came back through and back-filled. We got about 800 broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages planted by lunch. That’s probably the biggest, most intense job of the Spring and it always feels good to get it done.

back-filling around the plants

all done

However, we were in for another (not so pleasant) surprise. While we missed the bitterly cold winds that are usually an issue in early April, the weather had shifted and now it was unseasonably WARM.
it's DRY
The low humidity continued, and the winds picked up and…you guessed it…we were facing a broccoli emergency! The newly planted crop needed some sort of moisture. Pronto!

well, this can't be good!

Water is the life-blood of agriculture. As good stewards, we must utilize it with care and conserve whenever we can. So, our options for irrigation are carefully considered.
"desperate times call for desperate measures"

We could use over-head sprinklers (and we have in the past) However, with the wind and the low humidity, the chances of the plants receiving enough moisture were fairly slim. We could use the drip tape we use in other applications. But, the long rows mean long pieces of tape that are easily blown by the wind when they aren’t full of water. This can decapitate the plants in some situations.

The best option? Deliver water directly to the base of each plant. In the past, I’ve actually done this with a bucket and a cup. It took FOREVER…but, I only had to do it once before it rained. (if anyone wondered…there are definite downsides to a small operation…there is NO specialized equipment)

Thankfully, between the hose from the hoophouse and the hose from the garden hydrant (and some teamwork) we were able to reach the entire garden. Because this wasn’t a one-time thing. The heat (and wind) continued for three long days. But, due to our diligence, I feel it safe to say that the vast majority of the plants survived.
same plant after watering

But, there is an upside to this weird weather and unprecedented lack of production. We’ve actually had the ability to do some things we generally miss because we are preparing for Market. This week we took a quick trip to the Market Animal Show.

The Market animal show is the largest event of its type east of the Mississippi. (and is probably worthy of its own post) Lambs, steers and hogs are shown by kids of the county aged 9-18. The animals are then sold at a weekend sale. It’s an impressive display of hard work and determination by the kids (and their parents). So, here’s a shout-out to Sahara for a job well done in her first time in the show ring.
Good job, Sahara!

Just like that it was time for Market…

Somehow, it should come as no surprise that the forecast for Saturday included…RAIN.

The potential for wet weather would be a godsend for those firefighters battling a blaze on the mountain that threatens over 1,000 acres. Read about that here. But, rain and an open-air Market are not a good mix. Even the threat of precipitation can have a negative effect on the Market.

While the rain never really materialized during hours of operation, the gloomy weather and numerous other weekend events kept customer traffic down. Overall, the Market sales were off considerably from this time last year, but it is what it is, and we’ll have to adjust. Personally, we’re still weeks away from any sort of greens harvest, the first batch of lambchops or new potatoes and fresh field produce. So, I really need to develop a snappy explanation!

There were some gardens surprises...
the first potato sprout!

just when we gave up on the asparagus patch...

not enough for sale
but, it made a tasty supper!

The rain did arrive in stupendous fashion, complete with thunder and lightning late in the night. It seemed like a big production for a quarter inch of rain. But, we’ll take anything we get.

And, that’s it for our “surprising” week on the hill.

Karma staged a surprise escape

she wanted to patrol with Gus

and then dig a gigantic hole in the barn

the picture doesn't do justice to the huge mess

who did this?


Gus is not impressed with the new "water feature"
Karma dug in the barn

oh, yes, Karma is the culprit

it was hard work getting that dirty

back in "puppy jail"

Thanks for checking in with us.

Hope you have a Happy Sunday! 

a cool, damp Sunday
after a hot, dry week

Come back and “visit” us again real soon!

The photos from the Market can be found here...

You don't know Gomer? Watch this.


  1. Fresh asparagus!! Nothing better. I'm glad your plants didn't get damaged by frost. You both work so hard, it would be awful to have to add to your work! Your young pup really does pull a lot of fur out of ol' Gus, doesn't she? -Jenn

    1. I am so excited about the asparagus. I really had given up on the patch.
      Truth be told, Gus could use a good trim. But, Karma's methods are a little radical!

  2. Wow! What a week for you guys. Non stop action and excitement. I've only seen a bluebird once and never a green heron. But the others you show are pretty common up here and singing their lungs out these days. Music to my ears. Glad you got some rain. We got about .6" on Thursday and the grass immediately morphed from lawn to meadow. *oof* So glad that your week was relatively normal and postive. If anyone has earned good things, it's you guys. Take care.

    1. Everything seems SUPER green all of a sudden. And, the bird!
      Have a great week!

  3. Hey look, my comment 'took' this time! :-D

  4. What the two of you do in a week Barbara is just about what I achieve in a year. At present I am making a new garden at my bungalow - it is coming along nicely - thank goodness Karma isn't around to follow me digging it all up.

    1. I've been following your gardening progress, Pat. It sounds like it will be gorgeous upon completion.
      If you wanted any sort of addition water feature...say a pond, or needed extra excavation, Karma would be quite helpful. Otherwise, she is rather a nuisance. I just keep telling myself "she's just a puppy...!"